October 20, 2015

Experimenter (2015)

Experimenter (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Michael Almereyda
Country: USA

Movie Review: Brought by the innovative - yet not always succeeded - American director Michael Almereyda, “Experimenter” tells us about the work of social psychologist, Stanley Milgram (an unsmiling Peter Sarsgaard), based on his overwhelming studies on the human obedience to authority. In this biographical drama, whose theme is sufficiently enticing to keep us watching with a responsive curiosity, Almereyda uses his creative freedom to edify a somewhat loose narrative that drinks from the thoughts and explanations given by the observant experimenter who carried out multiple experiments on obedience. The first one started in 1961 at the Yale University, where he was teaching social relations. The fundaments of the experiment were very simple, but never easy to the participants, who had to administer possibly damaging electric shocks to a human being placed on the other side of the wall whenever he chooses a wrong answer to the pre-prepared questions. Milgram proved that more than 80% of the participants, despite extremely uncomfortable with the situation, continued giving electric shocks when they were politely and yet firmly told to proceed with the experiment. Many questions arise: didn't they stop because they were being paid and consequently a sense of duty was calling them? Or because they possessed some kind of meanness or aggressiveness? Or is it because they just embraced the task with such devotion that they simply neglected that there was a man suffering and asking for the experience to come to an end? Professor Milgram, with the eyes fixed on the camera, explains that this is due to the so-called ‘agentic state’, which occurs when a person is in his obedient mode in the face of a command. Once in this state, it’s impossible to go back - he explains. Among curious conclusions, unanswered questions, and philosophical postures, “Experimenter” also addresses the complicity that existed between Milgram and his devoted and condescending wife, Sasha (a solid comeback by Winona Ryder). The film’s structure was a bit fluctuating, occasionally alienated, which is not totally surprising if we remember the previous spasmodic narrative adventures of Mr. Almereyda – “Nadja”, “Hamlet”, “Cymbeline”. Despite the quibbles, he was able to picture both the experiments and the struggles of the man behind them with a voice of his own. Even far from enchanting, “Experimenter” is Almereyda’s most accomplished film.

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